Staying an International City Between Festivals

The Fringe and Festival may be over but that doesn’t mean quality international artists have ceased to visit.

So with Mad March out of the way, Adelaide can take a respite from the frenetic pace of festivals, car races and all the rest, and resume its slumber. One hopes not. For this is when local artists and arts presenters can at last peep out from behind the Festival – Fringe juggernaut and actually start their year. Without the latter’s massive publicity machine behind them, they can have their work cut out to get noticed, yet taken together they make for a crowded scene that dispels any notion that this city goes into a lull between festivals.

The focus of locally produced events might not be ‘just local’, either. On the piano front for instance, Recitals Australia and the Morgans International Piano Series between them bring an impressive fleet of overseas artists to this town. Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen, who recorded a superb new set of the Beethoven violin sonatas with Canadian violinist Corey Cerovsek, is next up for Recitals Australia, for instance. He plays Sibelius and Beethoven. Then comes the remarkably versatile Dutch cellist Pieter Wispelwey, who over past visits here has become an audience favourite. Meanwhile, the International Piano Series is offering Hungarian Denes Varjon from Hungary, Behzod Abduraimov from Uzbekistan, and the Swiss-Russian pianist Alexander Gavrilov.

It could well be a slice out of Wigmore Hall’s program but for one, now well recognised, factor: The Adelaide CBD lacks a dedicated concert hall for piano and chamber concerts. So these concerts are split mainly between Ukaria at Mount Barker for Recitals Australia and the multipurpose Space Theatre for IPS. Neither organisation uses Elder Hall any longer – “it needs a revamp of lighting and seating to create an atmosphere in that space,” remarks Mark de Raad, president of Recitals Australia. Like many others, he far prefers Ukaria, rating it as “a high quality, architecturally designed, appropriately sized venue – simply brilliant”.

Something comparable in the city centre is still needed, argues de Raad, and he believes it could be low cost: “I have always advocated using a portion of a larger development – two floors of a new high rise, for example, as the perfect possible space to turn into such a venue. It would be elevated, noise isolated and ‘simple’ in its construction.”

mark-de-raad-recitals-australia-adelaide-reviewMark de Raad

De Raad took over from Anthony Steel as Recitals Australia’s president in 2014, and comes with an interesting background. He came out from Holland to Adelaide in the mid-1980s barely speaking a word of English, when his father, a gold and diamond setter, decided to move here to escape armed holdups and live somewhere safer. As a kid, de Raad played organ but for the past 21 years has been running I-Nex, a highly successful software company based here in Adelaide that provides ticketing and data management services predominantly to arts companies.

Having chaired the 2014 Cello Festival and now also serving on the board of State Opera, de Raad now finds himself in the thick of Adelaide’s arts scene. He observes that it can be a real battle for smaller organisations, such as Recitals Australia, to create public visibility for themselves in the post-festival period, even if they are mounting high calibre events. “It is an image problem, but that’s the way it tends to happen,” he says.

On the other hand, through its reciprocal ties with the Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room, he says Recitals Australia has become well known on the international artist circuit. Overseas performers regularly come knocking at its door. “Recitals Australia has an international reputation within the artist community, and artists know us for our quality approach, student and emerging works, and the friendly way in which we run a recital.

“In the case of Paavali, his appearance this year was the result of about two years’ planning of our Program Committee. The initial approach was made through Paavali
himself and his agent. We receive about 10 to 20 of these approaches, and these plus our own outreach, allow us to construct a diverse program each year.”

So it just leaves the venue question to be conquered. But de Raad has plans on that front too. “Recitals Australia has recently placed its Steinway model D in the Ballroom at Carclew House, which has created an entirely new, affordable, 80–90 seat performance space in Adelaide. We will use this for our new intimate Salon Series, starting later this year.”

Paavali Jumppanen
Recitals Australia
Ukaria Cultural Centre
Sunday, April 2
recitalsaustralia.org.au

Header image: Paavali Jumppanen

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